President’s Letter


My mindset switches to spring at the onset of March, which usually brings climbing temperatures and budding trees. March also launches the count-down for Art in Bloom at Mia, the beloved annual rite of spring that attracts thousands of visitors.

 The first-ever virtual Art in Bloom will become a reality April 28 – May 2 with what promises to be an engaging and beautiful website.

Another first is my mustering up the courage to enter an arrangement that interprets the Aztec goddess Chalchiutlicue. I figured that this year I had the luxury to make several attempts and take many, many pictures to come up with a floral display that would suit the occasion. 

Chalchiuhtlicue, c. 1200-1521, Aztec

The myths associated with Chalchiutlicue appeal to my imagination. According to some, she once ate the sun and the moon. She also built a bridge linking heaven and earth that only those in her good graces could cross; the others were turned into fish. Nonetheless, the goddess was thought to be usually kind and generous, providing life-giving water and seeds. She was the personification of nature, who brought fertility and spring. In her reign, maize was first used for food.

The dahlia, native to Mexico, was a source of food and medicine in Aztec times. In 1963 it was named the official flower of Mexico. Now I’m faced with the challenge of trying to find dahlias for my interpretation of Chalchiutlicue, or maybe I’ll just stick to yellow daisies and corn.

Please tune in to Art in Bloom 2021—the April edition of Friends newsletter will provide all the details of this unique and important event, and the Art in Bloom webpage will soon have the schedule and registration information.

Most of all, I hope you’re well and in line for a vaccine!

Art in Bloom Update

A Q & A with Art in Bloom Chair Barb Champ 

Is Art in Bloom happening this year?  Yes! We’re putting on our first-ever virtual Art in Bloom from April 28- May 2. 

How’s that going to work? Mia is building a website where you’ll be able to see photos of over 100 fresh and imaginative floral arrangements and the Mia artwork that inspired them. You’ll also be able to watch a few time-lapse videos of arrangements being created, a slideshow of the history of Art in Bloom, and video testimonials from a few of our stalwart participants. 

That sounds nice but I’ll miss smelling the flowers. Can you fix that? Scent transmission via the internet hasn’t been invented yet but there will be a Zoom workshop with a kit that includes fresh flowers.  You just register for the event and pick up the kit at any Bachman’s location. 

Will there be anything that the public can see live and in-person? Yes, we have approximately ten Commercial Floral Artists creating floral arrangements they’ll display at their place of business.  People can visit the various locations and see the arrangements in person—it’s really a gift to the community from these wonderful  Commercial Floral Artists.

How about lectures?  We have two! Former FBI agent Deborah Strebel Pierce will be talking about stolen floral art on Saturday and Thursday we’ll have a dynamic panel discussion with signature piece artist Holly Young.  Also joining the discussion is Graci Horne.  Both Holly and Graci are Dakota artists. The panel will be facilitated by Mia curator Jill Ahlberg Yohe. 

Tours? Of course. Our talented docents will lead daily Zoom tours. Saturday and Sunday tours will be especially suited for both children and adults. 

I always enjoy the Art in Bloom cocktail when I visit the event. Do I have to do without? Heavens, no. Norseman Distillery is cooking up a signature cocktail and we’ll offer the recipe on the website. You can sip it while you view the floral arrangements or take a tour!

Why not just skip the event this year since we can’t do it in person?  We discussed that but, to be frank, Art in Bloom is the Friends biggest fundraiser, and this past year has been tough on the museum. Mia needs our support more than ever so we decided to go for it and try and deliver the best event we could given our current restrictions. Friends are friends through good times and bad!

What can I do to help? We have the best members who have always come out for Art in Bloom as volunteers, attendees, and donors. While there aren’t any volunteer opportunities this year we do ask that you “attend” the event and, if you’re able, make a donation here

If this event is a big success will you keep doing it virtually? Absolutely not! We plan to be back in person in 2022 with the smells, sounds, and companionship that have always made Art in Bloom great. 

In Discussion with Nell Irvin Painter: Historian and Artist

March 11, 2021 11:00 am



Ticket Price: Free

Join us a for a engaging discussion with this prolific author, artist and scholar.

Nell Irvin Painter had a very successful career as a leading United States historian. She earned her doctorate in history from Harvard University and honorary degrees from Wesleyan, Dartmouth, SUNY-New Paltz and Yale. She taught for several decades at Princeton University and along the way became a noted and award-winning scholar, lecturer and author. Her recent books include “The History of White People” (2010), “Creating Black Americans: African American History and Its Meanings, 1619 to the Present” (2006) and “Southern History Across the Colored Line” (2002). 

When she retired from academia, Painter was the Edwards Professor of American History at Princeton University. She then bravely switched gears at the age of 67 and pursued a degree in studio art from Rutgers University and a Master in Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design. 

Nell Irvin Painter, the historian became Nell Painter, the artist. As Dr. Painter puts it, “After a life of historical truth and political engagement with American Society, my artwork represents freedom. Including the freedom to be totally self-centered.”

With her thesis project, “Art History According to Nell Painter,” she used collage to take images of figures from black history, attaching bold and abstract patterns and distorting them with digital photo manipulation tools and text – thus converging art with history. Self-portraiture is central to Painter’s art. Using found images and digital manipulation, she re-envisions herself through self portraits. Mia owns Painter’s “You Say This Can’t Really Be America” 2017, Color inkjet print with screen printing on paper.

Since embarking on her artistic career, Painter has garnered shows, fellowships and residencies. In January 2020, Painter was appointed Chair of the MacDowell Board of Directors. Located in Peterborough NH, MacDowell is one of the country’s leading contemporary arts organizations. MacDowell awards more than 300 competitive Fellowships working in seven disciplines each year. Painter herself is a two-time MacDowell Fellow, in 2016 and 2019.

Nell Irvin Painter, scholar and artist, is a shining example of, “It’s never too late.”

Reserve your tickets online, or by calling 612-870-3000.

April is Environment Awareness Month so make sure to save the date for the Friends April 8th Lecture, “A Morning Conversation with Terry Tempest Williams”

This event is a Friends Only Event. Join the Friends today and attend the event!

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Friends only tour features the Purcell-Cutts House

March 16, 2021 11:00 am



Ticket Price: Free

Uncovering Hidden Histories at the Purcell-Cutts House

Please join Jennifer Komar Olivarez, Head of Exhibition Planning and Strategy, for a virtual tour highlighting aspects of the 1913 house that relate to current social and health issues. These include the history of race in Minneapolis, women in architecture, and hygiene and safety, and design in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. If you’re already familiar with the Prairie School house, you may see it differently from these perspectives!

An expert on Prairie School architecture and design, Jennifer has overseen the museum’s 1913 Prairie School-style Purcell-Cutts House since 1994.

Space is limited so make your reservation soon by emailing the Friends Office at


This event is a Friends Only Event. Join the Friends today and attend the event!

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“Gun Island” by Amitav Ghosh is the book club selection

March 19, 2021 10:00 am



Ticket Price: Free; registration required

Friends Only

Adventure and climate crisis abound in March’s book

Ghosh blends Begali legend with contemporary adventure in this novel in order to find new ways to address the world’s collective denial of climate and culture in crisis.  Join us for the discussion and a docent led tour afterwards.

If you haven’t joined the Book Club, please consider doing so. Our last meeting welcomed a full Zoom group of Friends, a lively discussion of Geraldine Brooks’ “Year of Wonders,” and a fascinating tour by docent Rose Stanley-Gilbert.  She filled the screen with fascinating pieces of Mia artwork to illustrate this very dark pandemic novel.

To join, email to reserve your spot. The discussions are conducted on Zoom and are limited to 18. 

This event is a Friends Only Event. Join the Friends today and attend the event!

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Stepping Back: Ella Sturgis Pillsbury Crosby  

A look at one of Mia’s most ardent champions. 

Ella Crosby’s children remember her as the “gracious matriarch of her large family.” Her passing in 2012 at the age of 96 left an enormous void in her family and Minnesota.   

Ella was one of six children and the oldest daughter of Eleanor and John Pillsbury. Her maternal great-grandfather was Civil War-era General Samuel Sturgis, for whom Sturgis, South Dakota, is named. Ella’s childhood home was only a block away from the Minneapolis Institute of Art. At the time, this neighborhood included some of the most elegant homes in Minneapolis, owned by influential and successful business leaders.  

Ella was educated at Northrop Collegiate School for Girls (now The Blake School) in Minneapolis and graduated from Foxcroft School in Virginia. She continued her education at Vassar College in Dutchess County, New York, but left college early to marry Thomas Crosby in 1937. The beautiful wedding at Plymouth Congregational Church was exquisite, with each of the bridesmaids carrying ferns instead of the planned floral bouquets. Apparently, there was a florists’ strike, so flowers were not available for the bridesmaids. Ella’s father was very much aware of complying with labor unions, as Pillsbury Company had recently reached an agreement with its own labor union.  Thomas’ grandfather, John Crosby, was a partner in the Washburn Crosby Co., another historic Minneapolis milling company, later to become General Mills. Incidentally, Washburn Crosby Company was the namesake of WCCO radio and television. 

Thomas spent his time as a General Mills executive and later became a founder of Northwest Equity Partners. Together Ella and Tom raised six children. The family was everything to Ella, and she was indeed the cornerstone of her family. Family traditions were a large part of the Crosby family. For more than 60 years, Ella hosted an annual Christmas gathering greeting all of her guests with a very warm smile and a multitude of thoughtful questions.

Ella Pillsbury Crosby with her family

Ella was also known for her sense of humor, yielding to a reputation as a very approachable woman throughout the city.  In addition to entertaining and raising her family, Ella loved to share her passion for travel with her children. Ski trips, European journeys, and nature excursions made for wonderful family memories. With these experiences in mind, Ella stated, “When I look back on all the fun I have had, and the places I have traveled, the most rewarding part was that I shared these times with my family and good friends….I am glad to see that my children grew up with this same sense of responsibility and purpose that is larger than any single individual.”  

Ella led by example, often rising to positions of leadership within the organizations she supported. This included being the director of Steven’s Square, then a nursing home for seniors, and the Lake Minnetonka Garden Club president. She volunteered for the Minneapolis Hearing Society and the Society for the Blind. During World War II, Ella demonstrated her compassion by volunteering as a nurse’s aide for the Red Cross. 

The Minneapolis Institute of Art was fortunate to have Ella as a supporter and volunteer, including taking on the Friends of the Institute’s presidency from 1960-1962. Membership greatly grew during this period, a sales and rental gallery was installed, and the docent program started in earnest.  Due to other commitments, Ella never became a docent and regretted this decision. She also served on the museum’s Board of Trustees from 1964-1972 and then again in 1976 and 1977. Ella was one of the first women to serve in this capacity.   

Installation day, 1998

In the 1990s, Friends of the Institute began planning for its 75th anniversary. Ella decided to commemorate her long-standing membership and desired to do something special for Friends and the museum. Also, being a granddaughter of Charles A. Pillsbury, one of Mia’s founders, further motivated Ella to find the perfect gift. Thinking back to visits to the museum, she always felt the outdoor pedestals on the 24th Street entrance seemed empty. She began to think of lions as they were believed to protect buildings from evil and, to this day, still found in present-day China flanking important institutions.  As it happens, the museum was expanding its Asian art collection at this time. Ella asked then Mia Asian art curator Robert Jacobson to search for the appropriate pair of 18th-century guardian lions. They were indeed found guarding the entrance to a nondescript shop but proved too difficult to export. Instead, replicas were carved of the lions in the same style. The lions were completed in 1998, and the 1915 original stairway had to be reinforced with 30 tons of concrete to bear the 16-ton weight of the male and female lions. Apparently, it is crucial to have both a male and a female when displaying guardian lions. If a viewer approaches the animals, they will notice that the male lion holds an embroidered ball, and the female lion plays with her boisterous cub beneath her paw. Ella’s generous gift attributed to Friends, as well as a dedication to the memory of her husband Tom, remains a landmark gift to the Twin Cities, safeguarding all who enter the museum.  

Ella’s brother George said of his sister, “She led a full life. She always did her best, whether on the tennis court or skiing or involved with the art institute. She was always interested in art and culture.” Her legacy lives on as her contributions and energies are appreciated and noted.  

Friends Centennial History Publication Authors:  Pamela Friedland, Linda Goldenberg, Mary Merrick, Suzanne Payne, Connie Sommers

Meet a Friend: Katie Searl

After nearly three decades as a Mia volunteer and Friend—Katie Searl has lots of good memories, wise words, and a bright outlook on the future. 

How long have you been a Friend? 

Friend Katie Searl and granddaughter Tilly with their drawings at The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

I began volunteering at Mia in the early ’90s when I was looking for a new project after a short stint as a part-time clothing buyer for the Rolling Green Country Club pro shop.  My first volunteer jobs were with the Antique Show, eventually co-chairing the show with Glenda Struthers and then chairing the Decorative Arts Council.  After that, Margene Fox invited me to serve on the Friends Board, and I’ve held a variety of positions over the years, including chairing Art in Bloom twice and serving as Friends President from 2009 – 2011. I loved serving as Friends President. As a stay-at-home mom, I relished the opportunity to have my own office and be treated as part of the Mia staff.  I felt if I was part of that young, talented and energetic team, I didn’t have to grow old!  Even better were the friendships forged and enriched by working on so many projects together, and I was privileged to work every day with Nicole Berns, who is talented and accomplished and made being in the Friends office so much fun. 

 What’s the most memorable Friends Lecture or event you’ve attended?  

There are many notable speakers that I enjoyed seeing and having the opportunity to meet, including Debbie Reynolds, Martha Stewart, Geza von Habsburg, and Princess Corsini.  One particularly memorable and humorous moment stands out.  A young and stylish speaker wearing a very short and form-fitting black dress and hot pink suede heels discovered that she had a hole in the seam of her dress, which exposed a pale patch of skin. She asked if anyone had a pin to close the gap or a needle and thread to make a quick repair. When neither could be found, she asked for a black marker and colored her skin black—problem solved, and off she went to the stage! More recently, I was particularly touched and inspired by Sarah Bellamy’s timely message about equity, diversity, inclusion, and the power of race. 

 How about a favorite artwork? 

Mia is filled with an amazing collection of beautiful, exquisite, and amazing art. However, my interest and work have focused on how the museum and the collection provide a vehicle to bring people together: as they work together, as they volunteer together, as they celebrate spring together at Art in Bloom, as students visiting the museum, as groups on a docent-led tour, as they learn together at lectures and so much more. 

Finish the sentence: I love being a Friend because __________ . 

I was, and still am, in awe of what the Friends create, together with Mia, and what joy we provide for the community. One of the things that’s made me proud, and sometimes moved me to tears, was to stand in the museum’s entryway and see people, every kind of person imaginable, stream in for Art in Bloom.  Going forward, Mia will be even more important in the vital quest to connect diverse communities, and the Friends through Art in Bloom and our efforts to support the museum can play a key role. And finally, for me, the best collection of all has always been the collection of Friends who are now friends and have enriched my life beyond measure.  I cherish them all. 

Join the Friends!

Send a reminder to your friends that Friends membership is complimentary for 2021!

The  Friends of the Institute Board of Directors is happy to announce exciting changes to our membership process!

In honor of our 100th Birthday in 2022 and to increase our membership to 1000 leading up to that momentous event, Friends’ memberships will be complimentary for all current members for the remainder of 2021. 

We will also extend this membership opportunity to all NEW friends who might like to experience the benefits of a Friends membership for the remainder of 2021. Please encourage friends and family to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.

What do you need to do?

It’s easy! Either click HERE to sign up online, or call 612-870-3000 to sign up by phone.  

Your Friends membership will be complimentary through 2021. An option to join the Friends for the 100th Anniversary year (2022) will be sent to you in November.

In the meantime, you can join the Friends for all our wonderful events, lectures, and Friends Only events through 2021. Come experience the Friends as we celebrate 100 years of service to Mia!

How will this work?

If you paid membership fees during 2020, your complimentary membership will be extended from its expiration through December 31, 2021. Renewal notices will be sent out in November of 2021 and will include information about all of our current membership levels. This new format allows the Friends to streamline the membership renewal process and to minimize the longstanding question, “When does my Friends membership expire?”

Beginning in January 2022, all Friends memberships will be active from January 1 to December 31. This will help us track and remind members of renewal in a much more efficient way.

Help spread the word!

April brings us virtual Art in Bloom, and the Friends will continue to host virtual lectures and Friends-Only events. The Friends are approaching our Centennial in 2022—100 years of partnership and support of Mia. In celebration, the Centennial Committee is planning a wonderful year filled with a variety of special events. As a Friend, throughout 2021 you’ll find Centennial updates in our monthly Friends Newsletter that also features articles about Friends events that take place throughout the year such as Friends Only Book Club, Friends Only docent tours, Friends Lectures, and opportunities to support Mia for the next 100 years.

In other words: Joining is easy! Just enjoy your complimentary year and pass along this letter we have written for you to share with friends who might ALSO like to experience the Friends and all Mia has to offer as a volunteer through Friends.



A Letter from our President

 Art reflects the importance of migration stories

Maria Eggemeyer, Friends President

Dear Friends,

Each day as I drive by Mia on 24th Street, I see progress in the installation of Ai Weiwei’s art covering Mia’s massive columns. This work is unique to Mia’s exhibition of  When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Art and Migration, which originated at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. Ai Weiwei’s installation of life jackets wrapped around exterior columns is a first for the United States.  His other life jacket installations have gone to such far-reaching places as the Berlin Concert Hall and the National Archives of Chile. The exhibition at Mia opened February 23 and runs until May 24.  

I was first attracted by the predominantly orange color of the life jackets, before they conjured up the current news of refugees crossing the Mediterranean, and past crossings of the Caribbean by Cubans. Ai Weiwei is a contemporary artist and dedicated activist who left China to escape the restrictions of Chinese society. He moved to the United States in 1981 where he attended the Parsons School of Design.

The January Friends lecture addressed migration with a talk by Tiffany Chung, internationally known for her multimedia work that looks at migration, conflict, and changing geographies in the wake of political and natural upheavals. Her work of maps, videos, and paintings reminded us of the importance of stories. During her talk she shared her own family story, including that of her father, who fought for the South Vietnamese military and was a prisoner of war for several years before he was released to the United States. 

Ai Weiwei’s “Safe Passage”, installed at Minneapolis Institute of Art as part of the exhibition “When Home Won?t Let You Stay: Art and Migration”.

The importance of migration stories, as told so vividly by art, beckons us to consider the current refugee crisis as a human crisis. At a training in preparation for Mia’s exhibition, University of Minnesota professor Dr. Jack DeWaard asked staff and guides whether we looked at immigration with economic logic, or as a human rights issue. He said that both had to be considered, but that we needed to choose one as the priority and then to include the other in the balance.

Between the recent exhibition on the Vietnam War, and this current exhibition on migration, Mia has given us much to search our souls. They’ve moved us to appreciate artistic expression, and to work together for the well-being of all of Twin Cities’ communities. Don’t miss When Home Won’t Let You Stay, and be sure to make your reservation for Debbi Hegstrom’s March 17 Friends Only program “Changing Viewpoints.” For this program, Debbi will guide us to look at art through a lens of critical thinking and cultural fluency—two important perspectives in the shifting geographies and demographics of today’s world.

Best regards,

Maria Eggemeyer

Friends President

Don’t forget the March Friends Lecture!

March 12, 2020 11:00 am


Pillsbury Auditorium

Ticket Price: Free

Don’t miss out on revolutionary opportunities, the French Salon, and slanderous art critics at the next Friends lecture.

Please join the Friends of the Institute as former Mia curator Lisa Michaux speaks on  “Mary Cassatt, Berthe Morisot, and Marie Bracquemond and the Impressionist Exhibitions.”

Life as an artist was a challenge for women in late 19th-century France. Banned from studying at the prestigious École des Beaux-Arts until 1897, women had to find other means of artistic instruction. This lecture will examine the women of the Impressionist movement, and provide greater understanding of the social and historical factors at play in late 19th century France.

Lisa Michaux was a curator in Mia’s Prints and Drawings department from 1990 to 2010 and is now a private art consultant and dealer. She divides her time between Paris and Minnesota and loves all things French, despite her inability to master the language. Join us in welcoming her back to Mia!

Reserve your ticket through the link below or by calling 612.870.6323.

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